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Love horror films? Mexico’s creepy Island of the Dolls could be your dream destination

Dolls hang from trees at the Island of the Dead Dolls in Xochimilco, Mexico City
Dolls hang from trees at the Island of the Dead Dolls in Xochimilco, Mexico City Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Charlotte Elton with AP
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Enter the Island of the Dolls - if you dare. But whatever you do, don’t take one away with you.


Are you brave enough to visit the island of dolls?

The eerie Xochimilco island - better known as Isla de las Muñecas, or the Island of Dolls - is just south of Mexico City.

But no humans live here anymore - only dolls.

Thousands of mutilated toys hang from ceilings, trees, and boats moored on the shore. Some are huge, others are tiny, a few are decapitated heads.

Some locals claim that the island is haunted.

"Apparatus have been set up and yes, there's paranormal activity. Here the concentration of energy is strong, you can actually feel it,” says José Gabriel González Franco, a local tour guide.

“That is why the Island of the Dolls ranks as one of the most terrifying places in the world.”

Why is the Island of the Dolls haunted?

The dolls have been collected here for 70 years. In 1950, as local legend goes, a child fell into the water near the island.

A local man named Don Julián Santana jumped in to save her, but he could not save the girl from drowning.

The Island of the dolls is home to more than 4,000 dilapidated old dolls.Canva

There's no official report of the accident or the death, but Don Julián Santana nonetheless marked the spot where he says the child fell and died with a white crucifix.

After the death, Santana - a Catholic who also believed in mysticism - was wracked with guilt. He thought that the girl’s mournful ghost might haunt the island.

By hanging up the unwanted, broken toys, he hoped to scare away the soul of the drowned child and other spirits that he believed were haunting him.

"For over 17 years of his life he collected dolls from trash cans or dumpsters, from friends, from the channels. The majority have a particularity: being ugly dolls, old dolls, burnt dolls, mutilated or deformed. That was the condition," says González Franco.

Today, tourists come from all over the world to visit the spooky island.

"If now, during the day, you feel like, I don't know, a little weird, now imagine at night when everything is in silence, you hear a strange noise,” says Teresa Reina who is here with her three daughters from Nayarit in Mexico.


“I don't know, I would not sleep over here, note even if I was paid,"

"Truth be told you get goosebumps. I mean, yes, you can sense a different energy, yet I liked it a lot. I think it is a different experience, yet unique," says Natalia Pinzon, a lawyer from Colombia.

You are allowed to bring your own dolls to meet the Xochimilco residents. But whatever you do, don’t take any away.

"I definitely feel some sort of energy here. And I definitely don't want to disturb it or touch it. Just leave it the way it was," advises Adrian Acosta from Miami.


The success of this island is such that, along the Xochimilco channels, there are now several replicas of The Island of Dolls in the surrounding areas.

Video editor • Charlotte Elton

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